MARTY RUSSELL: Who says we don't have choices for 2012 election?

By Marty Russell

Anyone watch the Republican presidential candidates debate Monday night on CNN? Me neither. With the general election still more than a year away and the field nowhere near solidified (except for the Democrats), it’s hard to get excited about anything anybody is saying right now which essentially is, “Vote for me. I’m not Obama.”
But we tend to forget that the primaries, those playoff games to decide who goes to the championship round, start in January so maybe it is time we started taking a look at our choices. Like Vern Wuensche, for example. Vern came in 10th in the 2008 campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire on a $36,000 budget, according to the web site presidential-candidates.org. He is now a declared Republican candidate for 2012. Vern, a Texas construction contractor, is just one of many lesser-known (as in never heard of) candidates in the current race.
That’s one of the great things about this country, practically anybody except Arnold Schwarzenegger can throw their hat into the ring. Of course, about the only guarantee is that you’ll lose a perfectly good hat because, as we all know, it’s big money and the big boys who will decide who we get to actually vote on in November. But that doesn’t stop a lot of people from qualifying and trying. Remember comedian Pat Paulsen, a regular candidate in presidential campaigns? Or Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry, another perennial candidate who, according to his web site, promises, if elected, to make it his top priority to impose the death penalty on the person responsible for making Americans install low-flow toilets?
The only qualifications for running for president, as spelled out in the Constitution, are that you be a natural-born citizen of this country (and I don’t know many people who were unnaturally born), at least 35 years old, have lived here at least 14 years and have a pulse. OK, so the Constitution doesn’t really require a pulse. That would explain Dick Cheney as vice president.
Of course, just because you qualify doesn’t mean you have a snowball’s chance unless you have a “R” or a “D” after your name and a dollar sign in front of it. But that doesn’t stop a lot of people from trying. And a lot of them are running as “Rs” this time around. Take Tom Miller, a declared GOP candidate and flight attendant. Or Andy Martin, a Republican whose main claim to fame has been keeping the question of Obama’s citizenship alive despite all the evidence to the contrary. Or Jimmy McMillan, a former member of The Rent Is Too Damn High Party now running as a Republican. Or Fred Karger, the only openly gay Republican candidate. He should do well with the party’s base.
Or Sarah Palin. Sarah who?
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University, Miss., 38677 or by email at marusse1@olemiss.edu.